And the rest of the NL West should probably be a bit upset about this because it makes the Padres a tricky opponent to crack again. Don't get me wrong, there are still a lot of holes to fill on that team, but this signing combined with the Mike Cameron deal made earlier in the offseason will make for some pretty stingy games at Petco in 2006. Perhaps somewhat surprising is the lack of movement so far from the rest of the division to respond. Let's sum up what San Diego has done:
1. Traded Brian Lawrence to Washington for Vinny Castilla.
What it does: It gets rid of a durable, albeit inconsistent pitcher for a durable third baseman who won't add much at the plate, but will save a few runs on defense. Although they are at opposite ends of the park effect spectrum, Petco and Coors have in common the need for a strong defensive unit and I think that Vinny's detractors miss what he brings on this side of the ball, not that it's enough to mitigate his subpar batting performance. Still, when compared to the Padres previous subpar at the plate third baseman (Sean Burroughs) I think the added defenze makes this position an upgrade. Brian Lawrence should be at least replaceable from the free agent market, and if the Padres do succeed in prying David Wells from the BoSox, then the rotation will have experienced an upgrade as well.
2. Traded Xavier Nady to New York for Mike Cameron.
What it does: Provides an instant upgrade at a premium position (centerfield) at the cost of bench depth. This move could prove to be one of the biggest of the offseason should the Padres go on and win the division again. The Padres had a need to fill, they found a potential fit, and then to get him they were willing to pull the trigger and let go a talented player in Nady who just didn't have a position to fit in as a regular. To use a backup to aquire a starter is always recommended and with the added defense of Cameron and Castilla, Jake Peavy should be a decent pre-season pick to take the NL Cy Young.
3. Signed Geoff Blum.
What it does: Replaces Nady. Not completely, of course, but enough to maintain at least an adequate bench.
4. Re-signed Brian Giles.
What it does: Keeps their most potent offensive weapon on board for another run. Until the Giles signing took place, all the other Padre moves were somewhat futile as without him they would struggle to score enough runs to compete. Now they've got a bit better than a fighting shot to defend their crown, particularly when none of their rivals have taken step one to challenge them. A lot can change before the Spring, and I don't know yet if San Diego is my pick for the division, but right now they've clearly taken a lead in offseason preparation.